Sead Dizdarevic reports on the growing popularity of the British Basketball League (BBL).
Basketball’s popularity has grown massively in the UK, and is now widely regarded as the second most popular sport in the UK. The evidence is as a buzzer, with sell-out crowds attending the NBA games that have been played at the O2 Arena, and the increase in audiences at basketball games all over the country over the past few seasons.
London Lions marketing director Lolly Marlborough has stated that, “We have seen an increase over the last 3 years in ticket sales and interest in British basketball.”
With a yearly increase in the interest of basketball in the UK, it’s led to massive investment in the sport as, in January 2016, it was announced that major sportswear manufacturer, Kappa will be sponsoring and providing apparel to the British professional basketball leagues and the Great Britain national teams at the beginning of the 2016-17 season. The three year deal is the first of its kind in British basketball which covers all the professional teams in the Men’s and Women’s game but also the national teams at senior and junior levels.
Lions Chief Executive and owner Vince Macaulay discussed with Rising East the popularity of the BBL; “I think the big thing now is that everyone recognises that all clubs are making huge efforts to make the sport a really attractive and exciting sport. Newcastle with the way they play, Leicester moving to their new arena, Sheffield looking for a new arena and obviously what we’ve done here at the CopperBox, being able to regularly get 2000 people in here, shows that basketball is on the platform it deserves to be, and I think if we continue in that vain it really is going to take some more massive strides forward.”
Some may criticise the quality of basketball in the BBL when compared to the likes of Spain and Italy. But there are huge talents in the BBL such as, GB captain Andrew Sullivan, as well as a number of bright talents arriving from overseas such as America and Canada.
Vince also spoke about the quality of basketball in British leagues not being far off from the quality shown in the bigger leagues in Europe. “Newcastle hosted some European teams and beat some of them and Leicester have done the same, so we’re showing that actually this thing (gap in talent compared to other European leagues) isn’t as big as we thought it was with a few tweaks here and couple better quality players then I think we’re right where we want to be.”
An NBA franchise in the UK?
However when asked about a potential NBA franchise being located in the UK similarly to the idea of an NFL team being in London Vince said; “There’s very little American football taking place in England certainly and not a lot in Europe either for that necessity to be there, and with NFL where you’re talking about 16 games a season it’s doable. With an NBA franchise you can’t do 82 games backwards and forwards. In any case why would you want to do that, you’ve got NBA level players playing in Europe and the way we’re developing here in England shows that, actually we’re not that far away, we’re not light years behind as we probably thought.”
NBA franchise or not, it’s safe to say that the future of British Basketball looks positive. With the BBC also announcing that they will be showing live coverage of both the BBL and WBBL playoff finals the demand for British basketball is certainly there to stay.